At one point, my team leader referenced for us an article by Phil Ryken called "How the Devil Wants to Run Our Churches." One section is well-worth repeating here, especially in light of how I saw Satan tearing through this local expression of Christ's body.
[E.M.] Bounds begins [his essay] by asking this question: What is the truest measure of a church’s strength? His answer is, “True strength lies in the vital godliness of the people. The aggregate personal holiness of the members of each church is the only true measure of strength. Any other test offends God, dishonors Christ, grieves the Holy Spirit, and degrades religion.” To put it another way, the strength of any church is the work of the Spirit in conforming its members to the life of Christ.
However, Satan’s strategy is to lure us into thinking that our strength lies elsewhere—not in the inward things of the Spirit, but in things that are external and superficial. “One of the schemes of Satan,” Bounds writes, “is to establish a wrong estimate of church strength.” A church is considered strong, he goes on to say, “when its membership is large, when it has social position, financial resources; when ability, learning, and eloquence fill the pulpit, and when the pews are filled by fashion, intelligence, money and influence.”
How little things have changed in the last 150 years. People generally measure a church’s strength the same way today—by the size of its membership, its social influence, and the money it has for ministry. This is how the devil wants to run your church: by transferring your assessment of its strength from what is unseen to what is seen—or as Bounds puts it, “from spiritual to material forces, from the Holy Ghost to the world.” “There is,” he says, “no readier and surer way to make the church worldly than to put material prosperity to the front, and no surer, readier way to put Satan in charge.”
What a great article! I miss you and will see you tonight!
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